Thursday, September 20, 2007

Identity Theft: & Background Checks

Identity Theft & Background Checks

A reader pointed me to this worrisome hole in the national firearms background check system. Remember the four police officers shot in Florida a few days ago? From September 14, 2007 channel 4 in Jacksonville, Florida:
First reports were that the person responsible for the shootings was a man named Kevin Wehner, a Jacksonville resident with no criminal record.

"Wehner is not involved in this case," O'Brien said. "It appears to us that Labeet may have obtained identification, maybe a driver's license, in Wehner's name. We are trying to clarify that now."

Alvarez said it was Labeet's girlfriend who was apprehended at the scene that gave police wrong information.

"She told us his name was Kevin Wehner," said Alvarez, who stated that the first hours of any investigation are crucial and that the woman's statement hampered the investigation. She faces charges.

Wehner went to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office when he saw his photo and heard his name used in connection with the Miami shooting. Late Thursday, JSO issued a statement saying it and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement "are confident that Mr. Wehner is not involved in the Miami incident today."

Authorities said Wehner reported being a victim of identity theft in October 2006 after he received three automobile registrations from the Miami-Dade County automobile tag agency for two vehicles he did not own. The JSO investigated the incident and discovered that an unknown person was identifying himself as Kevin Foston Wehner, using the victim's date of birth and Social Security number.
It turns out that Labeet used Wehner's stolen identity for more than registering cars. From the September 15, 2007 South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
Long before Shawn Labeet took the life of a Miami-Dade police officer, he stole a Jacksonville man's identity, used the alias to buy an arsenal of weapons, and disappeared into the South Florida landscape despite having an outstanding warrant on charges of shooting and injuring his girlfriend, officials said Friday.


According to the uncle of the real Kevin Wehner, Wehner's wallet was stolen four years ago while he was vacationing in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where Labeet is from. Wehner reported the missing wallet to authorities there, and then identity theft to Florida police when he began getting notices in the mail about cars he never bought, said his uncle, John Wehner of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Between December 2005 and March 2006, Labeet bought nine guns, six assault rifles and three pistols, under the alias, said Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Linda O'Brien.
My first thought is: shouldn't identity thefts be reported the national firearms background check system? Wehner had a clean record; that's why Labeet, using Wehner's identity, didn't get flagged when buying guns. Maybe it is time for the national background check system to get identity theft reports as well. It may be a little more complex for the victim of identity theft to buy a gun--but it would also slow down guys like Labeet, who were wanted.

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